For years, ovarian cancer was known as a “silent” disease with few obvious symptoms. But years of research has shown that there are four key symptoms all women should be aware of – and 10 others that are often overlooked.
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, focusing public attention on what the American Cancer Society says is the fifth leading cause of cancer among women. This year, nearly 22,000 women, mostly over age 40, will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“Primary symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating, pain in your pelvis or abdomen, difficulty eating or a sensation of quickly feeling full, and feeling the need to urgently urinate and/or urinate more frequently,” says Nicholas C. Lambrou, M.D., chief of gynecologic oncology at Miami Cancer Institute . “If the symptoms are new, occur more than 12 times a month, and/or don’t dissipate when changing the environment through diet or exercise, then you should see your doctor.”
And what about the overlooked symptoms? Dr. Lambrou says the reason these are so often overlooked is that most people experience at least some of these symptoms from time to time and attribute them to something else.
“When you look at these symptoms, it’s easy to see why they might be dismissed as being caused by something else,” Dr. Lambrou says. “Most people would probably say they’ve been working too hard, not getting enough sleep, eating too much or not eating enough of the right foods. Ovarian cancer is the last thing that comes to mind.”
The 10 Most Overlooked Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer:
- Easily fatigued/tiredness
- Pain during intercourse
- Upset stomach or heartburn
- Persistent or worsening constipation
- Abdominal enlargement or swelling
- Abdominal fullness and pain
- Changes in bowel or bladder habits
- Unintentional weight loss or weight gain
- Clothes not fitting well
- Feeling full after eating very little
Dr. Lambrou is quick to remind Resource readers that ovarian cancer can be curable but, as with most types of cancer, earlier detection leads to better outcomes. “With ovarian cancer, genetic screening and yearly pelvic exams are key,” he says. “And if you are diagnosed with it, make sure you share this with other members of your family because they may also be at risk.”